Steam Highwayman – A Responsive Map

Try exploring this story: steamhighwayman0-3

I’ve now completed a demo map to explore on your velosteam: 14 passages or ‘rooms’ that respond to the order and time in which you visit them, generating unique text and interactive traffic events.  I haven’t got any graphic interface for this yet – it exists purely as the relationship between passages.  But I have sketched it here to help you locate yourself:

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One of the underlying ‘vanilla’ engines of this story was always to be your ability to rob any passers-by, either creating story-lines as you become despised or hated by particular groups or simply making easy money.  This means that in true open-world fashion, you will need to be able to interact with all the traffic that comes your way.

At the moment these interactions are very rough, but essentially different sorts of road (main road, road or lane) and different times of day (day/night) will be more or less likely to generate different classes of traffic (pedestrians/farm vehicles/goods vehicles/guild vehicles/locobuses/private steam carriages etc).  You may be able to hail them and get rumours or rob them – reminiscent perhaps, and purposefully, of the sail ahoy mechanic in Sid Meier’s Pirates Gold.

I intend to keep working on this demo map until all the major modules are working.  So far we have:

  • A weather generator
  • A clock
  • An inventory
  • Health and wound counters
  • A rudimentary fight system (not yet plugged into the encounters with traffic
  • A fence where you can sell items (with still some bugs)
  • A pub where you can rent a room
  • Locals who will give you a rumour to investigate (and the space for many more)
  • Characters who will remember you
  • A wreck engine that will leave destroyed traffic at the side of the road
  • New today – the ability to wait somewhere until nightfall or morning

I mean to finish writing Squire Lynch’s quest, finish the interactions with the guild engines and create a quest at a nearby steam fairground.  Still haven’t done anything about my pistol engine…

Also I’ve got some lineation and matching issues with the generated text in my passages.  I’m slowly building more reliable templates so that in a completed version, everything should look seamless.  Other bugs include:

  • Unresolved fights
  • Unwritten encounters with private steam carriages and quest vehicles
  • Some difficulties with { and [ trailers

Steam Highwayman – Status coding

This morning I’ve been working on those priority checks – the variables that will test whether you’ve visited a location before, what factors will influence the generated text there and the counters that generate time, the phase of the moon and the weather.  I’m going to head out to do some of the creative part soon, thinking about the way I want these passages to sound and look.

I had a long chat with my brother Jack about this and we agree that there’s no point having long passages of description clogging up a reader’s enjoyment of what is essentially a story.  In the Fabled Lands series, passages are typically around 60 words, and that suits a smartphone fine, so I’m hoping to extrude the all the vital information in a few pithy sentences.

Steam Highwayman – In progress

It’s been a good morning.  I’ve been teaching the locals at the Sign of the Spyglass to gossip – as well as to keep track of your visits there.  Should they tell you of the wicked Squire Lynch, you should find a new quest opening up, in which you dole out some justice to an overbearing landlord.

Most of my recent writing has been coding systems that keep track of various story variables, so it’s nice to be starting on writing a mini-story within the tale.  However, though I’m sketching dialogue and event options there are a few things I need to complete before you’re able to to stop Squire Lynch’s speedy chariaeoli, defeat him in a duel, humiliate and rob him.

  • The high-level code that decides, when you visit a location, what variable-generated information to give you.  These are pieces like descriptions of the weather and scenery, designed to be wrapped into the particular writing of any specific passage.  I want every visit to every major to be unique, tailored to the time of day, state of the sky, and the various random chances of other traffic on the road.
  • I need to complete my engine allowing you to fire a gun.
  • I need to complete my guilt engine – the tracker that will remember every sin and misdeed committed in the name of your own wealth or even for the good of the poor…  It will all be significant later.

These are what I’ll be working on for the next week or two.  Using variable text to create interesting and significant passages is really my aim.  Many interactive fictions dispense with description because a reader skips them naturally, hurrying to the action.  I’m trying to embed important information and other options within text.  If it rains, that will effect your ability to chase a high-speed steam wagon.  If you’re in a wood, you may have simple sub-quest options related to objects you carry – such as cutting wood or finding a particular mushroom.  I hope to give the reader the ability to complete actions in any reasonable place, rather than at a specific quest location.

Steam Highwayman – Intro Narration

I was just mucking around with sound editing software and an intro for Steam Highwayman that came out of my head.  So here’s a little taster I made last week.

That’s Brahms’ 3rd Symphony in the background – a very quick choice – inspired by the old Ladybird story cassettes we had with classical soundtracks to excellent stories like Around the World in Eighty Days and Tom Sawyer.